Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Religious a Priori

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scinetific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines


In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomonology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the litteral sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousnds of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truely empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight corrolation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturslitic c/e and excluding anyting that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm untl there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabalistic assumtions building constructs to form a world view) is inadquate because it is merely a contsuct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be estreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Games Athesits Play

The games atheist play. I knew some atheists once who loved to play monopoly. They loved it so much they decided that atheism monopolizes science. I've also known many an atheist who loved doge ball. But then who doesn't sometimes? Hide and seek? No, atheists don't like seeking. They definitely do not like things being hidden. They like scrabble, where things are spelled out clearly and they control the vocabulary.

There are two things I find atheists doing on message boards that drive me up the wall.

(1) Assume no givens of any kind

(2) Confuse real logic with personal taste

The first one, assume no givens, I should say allow no givens. I've seen this in many forms. It's basically the idea that everything has to be totally proven. This tendency to demand that everything be proven is an outgrowth of their epistemology, which through going empiricism, and empiricism in a inductive, scientific sense. True empiricism in the old philosophical sense is not good enough. They demand total absolute proof of any assumption made. This is so extreme I find atheists asking me to prove the assumption that God is love. They will not accept the idea that this comes with the package of a Christian belief system or that it is empirically experienced my own sense of the presence of God.

But the ultimate example of this kind of thinking gone wild was seen a board the other dad (AARM--or RE-AARM) there was a thread called "why would God?" Meaning why would God allow pain and evil. So I began discussion on my soeteriolgoical drama idea, which begins by saying "here are the assumptions I make for this argument." This guy puts my word "assumption" in big blue font and says "you are just assuming!" Yes, chicken pie I know, that's what I said I was doing. Of the idea that all studies, arguments, treatuses, essays and any other sort of heuristic device employs assumptions, is foreign to this guy. Then he really took the cake, he says "This is circular reasoning, because you are assuming God!"

Now, friends, the name of the thread was "why would God?" So the thread assumes God from the get go, and to answer the thread is to assume God. Moreover, the question was about the belief system of Christianity. If you as a Christian believe that God is good, how can you explain that God allows pain, ect ect. The very nature of the question demands that anyone attempting to answer assume God in the answer. But this guy wants to argue that it's circular reasoning just to have a belief a prori. So not only will they not allow any sort of belief things must be proven form the outset, but they confuse this with logic to begin with. I was not making an argument to prove he existence of God. I was explicating my belief system. thus it should perfectly fair and understood that to explain beliefs I have to assume my belief.

But this response of the atheist also highlights the second problem, not understanding logic. How many times have I heard atheists say "your ideas are not logical," only to find that they have no clear idea of any logical rule violated. To them logic just "I like this" and illogical means "I don't like this." When accused of circular reasoning I always ask them to tell me what makes something circular reasoning. Nine times out of ten it turns out they confusing circular reasoning with saying something unproven. In direct response to this question (what is circular reasoning in my argument) the will say things like "we don't know what came before the big bang." This means my argument is circular because I'm making an assumption not based upon absolute evidence but speculation. When I point out that circular reasoning means the premise rests upon the conclusion of an argument, and none of my arguments do this, they just poo poo it like "O how can I be expected to keep track of all those rules." This makes the charge of "circular reasoning" pretty meaningless.

The idea that we know God exists because they Bible says so, and the Bible is the word of God so we can believe it, is a prefect example of circular reasoning. This is entirely because the premise (God exists) rests slap dabe upon the conclusion (God's existence is proven by the bible). The authority of the Bible comes from the thing in question, God. This is akin to begging the question. Circular reasoning is a lot like and is a form of question begging. The proof is based upon the thing in question, and the thing in question is proven by the proof that rests upon it.

None of my arguments have this quality. But what really gets me is these guys are not even assuming that unproven arguments are resting a premise upon a conclusion they are just using the term "circular reasoning" because they've heard it before and its sounds like a logical buzz to employ for the idea "I don't like this idea."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Richard Carrier and the Supernatrual

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Richard Carrier (of Secular Web fame) has written a pretty good article on the supernatural. I say it's "pretty good" he obviously put a lot into it, but it brings me back to one of my old soap boxes. Its not really about the supernaural. It's not Carriers fault, I think the concept itself has been degraded. He takes science and law to task for imposing their own definitions upon the term "supernatural," terms which do not regard the metaphysical. Since "supernatural" is a metaphysical term we should have a metaphysical definition. He also argues that such definitions should take account of the way people use such terms. He then loses us by defining the term in this way:

In short, I argue "naturalism" means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things. As I summarized
in the Carrier-Wanchick debate (and please pardon the dry, technical wording):

Unfortunately, this is not what people mean when they say "supernatural" nor does it have anything to do with metaphysics. Its' not historically the way the term has been used. More important than metaphysics is theology, because this is primarily a theological term. While I agree that we should take the public use of a term into account, when we have a specialized term that is primarily the property of an academic discipline such as theology, we should consult the history of the term as well as the special to use to which it has been put.

The term suffers from a callsic symptom; he thinks "Super" as the prefix would make supernature the oppossite of nature. So sstarting from this jucture,the assuption that these diametrical oppossites is symptomatic of what has happened in the degrrading of the term in the first place. He then uses his own philosphical hobby horse to define "nature" and thus defining "supernature" (a term he doesn't use but the proper term none the less) is just a matter of advancing the oppossite concept as the definition. But "Super" doesn't mean oppossition nor does it mean oppossite, nor does it mean immaterail, way out, or imaginary. it means "above," "over" or "supirior." What this means for defining the term I'll get to in a moment.

Carrier goes on to illustrate the way the term is used,in his eyes, by talking about ferries and demons and the force in star wars without ever realizing that most of that is not defined as supernatural. I don't recall a line in the movie saying "use the force, Luke,... it's supernatural."

I have previously illustrated my own understanding of supernatural, which excludes this kind of phenomena, the ferries and so forth. That was published on this blog, so I'll repeat it here.

I have several pages about the supernatural on Doxa.


The problem in all these discussions about the supernatural is that we are dealing with a degraded concept. The notion of "Supernatural" is a misgnomer to begin with, because modern people construe the idea as another place, an actual location that you can go to. It's the unseen invisible world that is filled with ghosts and magic and so forth. It's in the realm where God can heaven are, we supposed. But what they don't realize is that this is the watered down, dilapidated concept. It's not even understood well by Christians because it was destroyed in the reformation.

The term "supernatural" comes from the term "supernauturalator" or "Supernature." Dyonisus the Areogopite (around 500ad) began talking of God as the supernaturalator, meaning that God's higher nature was the telos toward which our "lower" natures were drawn. St.Augustine has spoken of Divine nature as "Supernature" or the higher form of nature, but that is speaking of nature in you, like human nature and divine nature.

In the begining the issue was not a place, "the realm of the supernatural" but the issue was the nature inside a man. Human nature, vs. divine nature. The Sueprnatural was divine nature that drew the human up to to itself and vivified it with the power (dunimos) to live a holy life. This is the sort of thing Paul was talking about when he said "when I am weak I am strong." Or "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." The weak human nature which can't resist sin is transformed by the power of the Godly nature, through the spirit and becames strong enought to reisist sin, to be self sacraficing, to die for others ect ect.

This was the "supernatural" prior to the reformation. It was tied in wiht the sacraments and the mass. That's partly why the Protestants would rebel against it. St. Agustine (late 300s early 400s) spoke of Christians not hating rocks and trees, in answer to the assertion that Christians didn't like nature. But the extension of the natural world as "nature" didn't come unitl latter. The idea of "the natural" was at first bsed upon the idea of human nature, of biological life, life form life, that's what the Latin natura is about.

Prior to the reformation Christian theologians did not see the supernatural as a seperate reality, an invisible realm, or a place where God dwells that we can't see. After the reformation reality was biphercated. Now there came to be two realms, and they juxtopposed to each other. The realm of Supernature, is related to that of Grace, and is holy and sacred, but the early realm is "natural" and bad it's meyred in sin and natural urges.

But all of that represents a degraded form of thinking after goign throught he mill of the Protestant Catholic split. The basic split is charactorized by riationalism vs feideism. The Catholics are rationalists, because they believe God is motivated by divine puropose and wisdom, the Protestants were fiedeists, meaning that faith alone apart form reason because God is motived by will and sheer acceptation, the desire to prove soverignty above all else.

The rationalistic view offered a single harmony, a harmonous reality, governed by God's reasoned nature and orchastrated in a multiferious ways. This single reality continaed a two sided nature, or a mutli-facets, but it was one harmonious reality in wich human nature was regeuvinated thorugh divine nature. But the Protestant view left Christian theology with two waring reality, that which is removed from our empirical knowledge and that in which we live.

The true Christian view of the Sueprnatural doesn't see the two realms as juxtoppossed but as one reality in which the natural moves toward its' ground and end in divien nature. It is this tendency to move toward the ground and end, that produces miracles. A miracle is merely nature bending toward the higher aspect of Supernature.

but with the Protestant divinsion between divine sogerignty, acceptation and will motivating the universe, we mistake univocity and equivocity for nature and supernature. We think nature and supernature are not alike they are at war, so difference marks the relationship of the two. But to make the Suepernatural more avaible they stress some aspect of nature and put it over against the rest of nature and pretend that makes it sueprnatuarl, this is univocity, it's the same. So will and acceptation, soverigty, God has to prove that he is in charge, these are all aspects of univocity.

It's the natural extension of this biphercation that sets up two realms and sees nature as "everything that exits." or "all of mateiral reality" that sets up the atheist idea that supernatural is unnecessary and doesn't exist.

The medieval Christian doctrine of the supernatural has long been misconstrued as a dualistic denigration of nature, opposed to scientific thinking. The concept of supernature, however, is not a dualism in the sense of dinigrading nature or of pitting against each other the "alien" relams of spirit and matter. The Christian ontology of the supernatural bound together the realm of nature and the realm of Grace, immanent and transcendent, in a unity of creative wisdom and purpose, which gave theological significance to the natural world. While the doctrine of supernature was at times understood in a dualistic fashion, ultimately, the unity it offered played a positive role in the development of scientific thinking, because it made nature meaningful to the medieval mind. Its dissolution came, not because supernatural thinking opposed scientific thinking, but because culture came to value nature in a different manner, and the old valuation no longer served the purpose of scientific thinking. An understanding of the notion of supernature is essential to an understanding of the attitudes in Western culture toward nature, and to an understanding of the cultural transition to science as an epistemic authority.

The ontology of supernature assumes that the natural participates in the supernatural in an ordered relation of means and immediate ends, with reference to their ultimate ends. The supernatural is the ground and end of the natural; the realm of nature and the realm of Grace are bound up in a harmonious relation. The Ptolemaic system explained the physical lay-out of the universe, supernature explained its theological relation to God. The great chain of being separated the ranking of creatures in relation to creator. The supernatural ontology is, therefore, sperate from but related to cosmologies. This ontology stands behind most forms of pre-reformation theology, and it implies an exaltation of nature, rather than denigration. This talk of two realms seems to imply a dualism, yet, it is not a metaphysical dualism, not a dualism of opposition, but as Fairweather points out, "the essential structure of the Christian faith has a real two-sidedness about it, which may at first lead the unwary into dualism, and then to resolve ... an exclusive emphasis on one or the other severed elements of a complete Christianity...such a dissolution is inevitable once we lose our awareness of that ordered relation of the human and the divine, the immanent and the transcendent, which the Gospel assumes." Yet, it is this "two-sidedness" which leads unwary historians of into dualism.

In his famous 1967 article, "The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," Lynn White argued that the Christian belief of the Imago Dei created "a dualism of man and nature;" "man shares in God's transcendence of nature." This notion replaced pagan animism, it removed the "sacred" from the natural world, and with it, inhibitions against exploiting nature. Moreover, by the 12th century, nature became a source of revelation through natural theology. In the Latin West, where action prevailed over contemplation, natural theology ceased to be the decoding of natural symbols of the divine and became instead an attempt to understand God through decerning the operation of creation. Western technology flourished, surpassing even that of Islamic culture (although they still led in theoretical pursuits). Thus, White argues, medieval theology did allow science to grow, but at the ultimate expense of the environment.

The insights of feminist scholarship, however, suggest an even more subtle argument for the denigration of nature. Feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruther, argued that there is an identification between the female and nature, the male and transcendence. Women have been disvalued historically through the association between female sexuality and the "baseness" of nature. Londa Schiebinger, calls attention to the fact that the Judeo-Christian cosmology placed women in a subordinate position. Gender was more fundamental than biological sex, and it was a cosmological principle, "...Men and women were carefully placed in the great chain of being--their positions were defined relative to plants, animals, and God." The subordination of women was predicated upon their position in nature. "Male" and "Female represented dualistic cosmological principles penetrating all of nature, principles of which sexual organs were only one aspect. One might suspect that the place of women on the great chain of being is indicative of the true status of nature itself in Christian ontology; an overt denigration of women indicates a covert denigration of nature.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Some Problems With Atheism

I wouldn't say such disparaging things about atheists if they didn't pull such sneaky tricks. Now of course I don't mean all atheists. But there are atheist fundies just as there are Christian fundies, and there's an atheist atheism of the gaps kind of argument. The atheist fundie fools himself into thinking that his view is totally empirical and demonstrated by science but "nothing in Christianity is objective," you know they don't understand anything about epistemology when they start demanding "objectivity." Espeicially to demand it from a world view. I can see asking for "objectivity" in the form of veri similitude for a study on air bags in automobiles, for example, but not backing up a world view! That's as idiotic as believing that you are being scientific because you life white lab coats.

The problem is this kind of atheist fundi fools himself into thinking that eh as some real verification and objective demonstration of his world view, but he's only being fooled by a self induced con job. It works like this. First he imposes a self privileging ideology upon the world. He privies doubt, so in his mind doubt comes to equal truth. Then he orients his world view around a value of accepting "only empirical evidence." He cons himself into thinking that he only accept ideas that are proven with empirical scientific evidence. Then attaches such importance to this concept that he is able to make a leap of faith and pretend that somehow valuing induction proves the materialist conclusions that he leaps to. So he think just because he wants all of his positions to be proven with empirical evidence, they must really be so. And of course he convinces himself that the task of science is to protect form religion and then science becomes his get out of hell free card. Let's review these steps.

(1)Impose ideology privilaging doubt
(2)accepts value of empirical data only
(3)leap of faith from value of emprical data to assumption of emprically based conclusions
(3) sanctions with the arua of science.

Of course he has no such data. There is no data that God doesnt' exist or that there is nothing beyond the material world.He has no of proving this at all. But that's OK he says because it's having a scientific way of life that counts. At least his over all view is supported by his love of "objectivity" so that sanctions his conclusions even if logic doesn't' sanction them.

The truth is he has no such proofs and his bold scientific way of life is a sham because he has many assumptions upon which his world view is predicated, the basis of which cannot be supported by science. I've made lists like this before, they include all the basic epistemic assumptions:

(1) The existence of other minds.
(2) that the future will be like the past
(3) that the sun will come up tomorrow
(4) That a world exists external to his own mind.

Now most of these are reasonable assumptions. But the point is he holds them without the possibility of any sort of real direct empirical scientific evidence, all the while claiming that as the basis of his entire world view.

The thing is, I wouldn't mind that so much, but then he tries to use this in contrast to religious thought. Everything that religious thinkers say or do receives hyper criticism from them. He imagines that theologians like Paul Tallich are just glorified sudayschool teachers with nothing going on up stairs. He waves around the word "objectivity" like there's really something to compare.

But he wont evaluate Christniaity on the terms of its own inner logic and every attempt to expalin what is is met with "but that's not objective, you dont' have anyting objective," that's just the illusion created by their value system.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Comment on Shaking Dust at CARM

this was a comment for that thread, but that thread is so old and burried and this raises some issues I would like to deal with. I am, therefore, making a post of its own to deal with it.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Someone named Jon writes:


The fallacy in your thinking is that because you believe that the OT and Genesis are largely unhistorical, therfore, 'creationism' is incorrect. That is a classic logical blunder called the genetic fallacy.

No it's not. If that was what I thought it would not be the Genetic fallacy. Because the issue would be the historical veracity of the source, not merely because naming the sources demonstrates the wrong nature of the argument. But I never said most of Genesis is unnistorical. I said the cration story is mythology. There's a lot more in Genesis than the creation myth. Moreover, that is not why I consider creationism to be wrong.

I consider cretaionism wrong first, because the facts do not support a six day creation. As for non Yec creationists, they work overtime to make a mythological text fit a quasi scientific theory, it's more logical and eligant to just accept the mytholgocial nature of the creation story and think in terms of evolution, which I believe is born out by the facts. Secondly, I don't see how a creationism could be sicence when the outcome of every experiment is mandated. It's like science without expierment. As though they think science is just so many authorotative prnouncments without no observation.

I have read many of your posts on CARM and its clear your knowledge of science is very weak. You lack qualifications in making the following Non-Sequitur

" Can a "true Christian" accept evolution or must one reject modern science in favor of faith? "

As if evolution is equivalent to modern science.

Creatoinists are always so embrassaged bout the position in the modern scientiific community. This is something I've noticed on ever message board. I used to have a science board for many years as part of my boards at ezb. It never failed but that every time creation squared off agasint evolutionist we woudl hear "you don't know anything about science! you are not a scisnit and I am!" blah blah. LIke I said they think science is just so many authorotative pronouncements.

NO I am not a science guy. But I enough about evolution to hold my on in an arguement with any creationist, becasue creationism cannot be science due to the mandatory nature of its conclusiojns. If a "creationist scientist" ever come to the conclusion that evolution was true he would be out of the club. Sot he forego;ne nature of the conclusion bars any real study of the evidence.

Your main argument against creationism are theological ( "God is the boss dictating a memo to a secretary") not scientific, adding further to my claim that you really are ignorant of what scientific creationism actually is.

That's a misnomer. How can there be 'scientific creationism' when the concludiosn of material is mandated? Try to get your facts stairght. My argument against creationism is not theological. My main argument agaisnt creationism is the fossil record. I never said God is the boss dictating a memo, I say that's the view of the inerrentist.

If you want your position to be taken seriously you should try to support it on a scientific level.

So you didn't read the threads where I defended evoltion? It was last summer. It was on the apologetics board. that was the begining of my down fall from Grace at CARM. If you read that thread youo would know that I argued the fossil record and did so sucessfully aginst all creationsts.

Provide scientific evidence that macroevolution is correct rather that appeal to authority as is all scientists agree with you. Besides, appeals to authority also backfire on you. The majority of astronomers to do not view the Big bang as a supernatural event.

YOu creationists are the one's who are hung up on authority. I don't have prove evoluition. that's the prevailing theory in all of science. There is no science in the world today, no scientific discipline that does not assume evolution as a fact. You show me some credibel sceitnific evidence, without folklore creationist urban legoond, that evolution hasn't happened.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Can Jesus "Mythers" Read?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Excavation at Nazareth
Bastement to "non existant" houses

The atheist, and the "Jesus Myther" (those who believe Jesus didn't really exist even as a man in history) are so unconcerned with facts or truth, this came out so clearly in a debate recently. This will probably be about the last debate I have on a message board. These people are so frantic in their hatred of Christianity they are willing to let ordinary language go and to read as they wish it read rather than look clearly at the words to see what they communicate.

consider this statement:

After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families

Don't you think that says that the Priests and their families needed resettling? Here's the full context of the quotation:

"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise." Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:

These Jesus mythers were so anxious to prove that Nazareth didn't exist in Jesus day, (and by association then Jesus didn't either) they were actually reading this quote to say that Nazareth was re-settled in AD 70. The quote clearly said the priests need resettling, it says nothing bout Nazareth needing to be resettled it says they were sent to Nazareth as part of their own resettlement. How this works into the top and how it came about will soon be disclosed.
This business that Nazareth didn't exist in the first century has been floating around the "myther" camp for some time. Like all Jesus-myth arguments it is merely argument from silence. There is no actual evidence that Nazareth didn't exist, No one in the first century, or any subsequent century, ever claimed that Jesus came from a fictiscious town. But according to myther lore no one mentions Nazareth either. Josephus doesn't mention it, so it must not have existed. Funny, he does mention Jesus but that doesn't prove anything! Be that as it may, the myther camp is wrong, there is an extra biblical mention of Nazareth from the first century, we quoted it above.Of course this meant nothing to those on the message board. They also calim there is archaeological evidence, no ruins have ever been found, no evidence of habitation in the first century.

This is blatantly false. There have three major excavations:

Bagatti, 1955:

In the late Nineeth and early 20th centuries there were excavations of the chruch at Nazareth, but in 1955 major excavation of the general area beban.

The late Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti, O.F.M., professor at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum at Flagellation, Jerusalem, was entrusted with this work. Study began in 1955 immediately after the demolition of the church of 1730. The examination was so thorough that not one square centimetre of the ground or the ruins was left unexplored. Flooring, mosaics and pieces of plaster were removed to allow full examination and the reconstruction of the archaeological picture of the place. Operations continued from 1955 to 1968 and yielded data of great scientific importance, so much so that it is quite true to say that this shrine at Nazareth is one of the most completely documented of all the sanctuaries of the Holy Land.
("Nazareth:Villiage of Mary and Joseph, Francisan Cybrespot)

By comparison, Nazareth was tiny, with two or three clans living in 35 homes spread over 2.5 hectares, Pfann said. The homes later were razed by invaders: What remains are several basement caves, cisterns and silos excavated in the late 1950s during reconstruction of the Church of the Annunciation. by Karin Laub*,

Misleading Jesus mythers try to argue that the houses were destroyed so they can't excavated and therefore, they have not yeilded any evidence. But this is just a matter of not reading carefully. The houses themselves have been destoryed, but Bagatti found the basements. The basements show where the houses used to be. These were not offices buildings that people went to the monring and left and went home at night, so the basements are obvious evidence of habitation.

Pfann, 1996

Late in 1996, an ancient wine press was discovered among rock terraces on a hilltop over-looking modern-day Nazareth. An archaeological survey of the area was conducted and excavation of the site began in April 1997 under the direction of Ross Voss and Stephen Pfann. Initial finds included the wine press, agricultural terraces, stone irrigation channels, bases of five watchtowers, and pottery sherds dating the site to the first century of the common era-about the time of Jesus. Evidence suggests that the first-century residents of this village made their living growing grapes, olives, and grain on terraces cut into the limestone hills. At harvest time, all of the estimated 300 villagers would have gathered to stomp grapes to extract the juice or to huddle in watchtowers at night guarding their produce against thieves. While little is known about the early life of Jesus, Biblical texts indicate that he worked with his father, Joseph, as a carpenter, which probably included work with both wood and stone. The Nazareth village farm was within easy walking distance of Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, which at that time was being completely rebuilt following destruction by the Romans. Even if Jesus and his father were kept busy with construction work at Sepphoris, they likely would have joined the villagers (probably extended family members) at harvest time.(foundaton for Biblical Archaeology, Nazareth Village, visted Jan 10, 2007)

More about the Pfann excavation:

On a visit to Nazareth Hospital in November 1996 CSEC's director Stephen Pfann identified an ancient winepress associated with agriculatural terraces on the hospital grounds and the adjacent land. Potsherds found on the surface of the terraceds dated from various periods beginning with the early-to-late Roman Period.

A survey of the area was conducted in February 1997 by CSEC's archaeological staff. Four seasons of excavation, licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and under the joint direction of Ross Voss and S. Pfann have been carried out by CSEC, with the help of students and local volunteers. These excavations have confirmed the land to be a complete Roman Period terrace farm with a winepress, watchtowers, olive crushing stones, irrigation systems, and an ancient quarry, and have illuminated previously unknown aspects of terrace farming in the Galilee.

Dr. Nakhle Bishara, Medical Director of Nazareth Hospital, had long hoped to build a visitor's center in Nazareth focusing on the life of Jesus. In light of the archaeological profile of the site, Dr. Bishara invited CSEC to incorporate its vision for an authentic first-century 'model village' with the proposed visitors' center. CSEC was thus contracted to be the academic consultants for the project and to provide the foundational research necessary for recreating a picture of Galilean town life in the first century A.D. Hence the Nazareth Village farm and visitor's center, developed under the direction of Michael Hostetler, was born.(Nazareth Village Farm, University of the Holy Land.

Baggatti and Pfann they just dismissed competley. Baggatti they said was "biased" (the ultimate sin for these guys) because he's religous. So any religious person, espeically a priest, is just no damn good doesn't deserve a hearing. One of the main champions of the myther view on this board, the anaynomous in the post on this blog who attacks me about Helmutt Koester, kept arguing "especially the Fransicians." He doesn't even know the franciscans are respected and have produced fine archaeologists in the past. He can't give spcific indicment or even an example of bias on Baggatti's part, just because he's religoius. So this is just blatant poisoning the well. With this kind of attitude there is no choice but shut down dialuge. If truth doesn't matter, and facts don't matter, and the evidence is frong of your face in three studies but you just refuse to accept it, then I supposse diolauge means prescious little either.

Jol, Bode, et al 2004

Jol and Bode, University of Wisconsin-Eau Clarie

Freund and Darawsha University of Hartford, Savage Drew University and others using high resolution ground penitrating radar under the Cactus house at Nazareth and other locations in the area found evidence of first century habitation. The "cactus house" is a shop located near the "well of Mary" a local landmark the water of which is said to have extensive healing powers. This is near the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. The owners of the Cactus house dug out a basement to expand storage space and found the ruins of an ancient bathhouse dating to the crusader period. but there is also evidence of a bath house under that (third stata of bath house) dating back to the first cnetur, 2000 years.

It is not easy to reconstruct the history of Nazareth during this time period (1st century CE) because structures have been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. The place where we have beeninvestigating is significant because it is an original archaeological site, never excavated, and occupies a portion of a much larger structure located in close proximity to Mary’s Well and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Elias and Martina Shama-Sostar who operate the Cactus House becamesuspicious when they started to dig out the basement of their shop to add new storage space. Their excavations revealed a portion of a hypocaust and furnace of a bath house of an unfixed age as well as other finds (Figure 2). Radiocarbon results now date the excavated bath house to the Crusader period. It is below this floor that there may be preserved a former Roman period bath house and associated artifacts of visitors that go back 2,000 years. One theory suggests that this lower bathhouse would likely be the place where Mary and her family would have come to bath and draw water and therefore indeed the place where the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary. The objective of the Nazareth Excavation Project is to gather as much information as possible about underlying features of the excavated portion of the bath house. The initial investigations are to be carried out in a non-intrusive and non-destructive manner with results suggesting locations to excavate. This paper will report on the high resolution ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys that have been conducted within and adjacent to the Cactus House.(Jol, Bode)

Here we have a secular source that conducted an excavation but of course they skpetics argued that ground penitrating radiar isn't good enough and they dig up the ground. But we have to assume thsoe square shapes under the soil are not perfectly square boulders, nor should we believe that shouses and squre shaped artifcts grew naturally. The argument finally came down to a mysterious quote to which they kept refurring they called it "the strange quote." At one point they cliamed that Strange,a man's name, conducted a study, an excavation (one I had not heard of) and found evidence of a mysterious resetlement in AD70.

So the issue was PFann and Baggatti show that the community exist from 700BC to some time in the second century when it was disrupted by invasion. The houses could not be found because they had been destroyed by this upheval. The mythers concluded they were never there, but totally Baggatti's evidence that he found the basements of the houses, proving they had been there. This they refussed to believe. He's relgious, we can just ignore anything he says out of hand. I argued that the upheval and resettlement was in the second century, well after the time of Christ...

ah but there is that srange STrange quote that there was a resettlement in 70. So they assume wiht no evidence at all that some previous upheaval was before the time of Christ and the place was unhabited untl AD 70. Upon what did they base that? Nothing just that that's what they want. I kept putshing them to show the documents, show the evidence, then they finally came up with the amzing Strange quote, that's that first quote at the top:

"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise." Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:

I'm not sure why they call it "the strange quote." But I realized at once this quote is on my site. They got it from Glenn Miller's Christian Think Tank. I'm pretty sure Miller copied it from my page where it's been on Doxa for about 10 years. There's no problem if the did, I've swiped many a quote from him, and it is an honor if he thought one of my quote worth cropping. So I don't care, and he knows I use his quotes and he has told me he doesn't care. But the fact is I researched that quote and It has nothing to do with a resettlement of Nazareth, the only thing being resettaled were the Priests. In fact the quote proves Nazareth was inhabited in the frist century and it takes away the entire myther argument from silence. There is no silence, Naz is mentioned in first century lit, they do no have a case.

But I am left wondering what is with their reading skills? Are they so baised they just see in quotes what they want to see and are blind to what is actually said?

The attitude toward reigious people with credentials and scholarship is just horrendous. It's like the attitude of white peole toward blacks in the nineteeth century. If I were an end times kind of guy I would say that atitude is the prelude the great tributation because I can easily see these people putting men in a concentration and camp and gassing me if I don't accept their mark. Like all hypocrites they have the gaul to reject others for their bias!

I fear what is ahead for us when dialogue is shut down so and when people are so intent on their view that they just don't even accept the evidence when it front of their faces.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Almost" Berkeley: God and Time part 2

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The problem of Creation:

The conventional Christian view of Creation as based upon gen1:1 "God created the heavens and the earth" has, for decades, been associated with the Big Bang. It was a great fit too. The verse seems to say "God went zap and there it was, when two seconds before there it wasn't." And the Big bang seems to say "the singularity went "zap" and there was the universe. These two were made for each other and throughout the 1980s atheist physicists sweated out the similarity. Even Fred Hoyle seemed to be wavering in his dedication to steady state and it seemed that God would soon take over physics. In an attempt to move away from this uncomfortable position physicists began coming up with theories that would so alter the Big Bang that they would no longer find the fit plausible.

After Hawking's idea of no boudry, even though far from proven, there is a problem with the conventional view of creation. Since there is no time beyond event horizon (what we used to call 'before the big bang') there can be no time before time, so there can be no beginning. thus creation cannot be an event.

Hawking's theory of the unbounded condition is an example
Robert Koons, University of Texas

In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking presented a new model of a beginningless universe. Hawking does not challenge the idea that the universe is finite in space and time. Consequently, there is no time earlier than 16-10 billion years ago. Nonetheless, if the univese does eventually collapse back into a infinitesimal point, and if we use a mathematical technique known as "imaginary time", we can model space-time as a smooth, uneventful surface, with the Big Bang as the North Pole and the Big Crunch as the South Pole. Hawking's model involves "spatializing" time -- turning time into a spatial dimension, no different from the familiar three dimensions of space. Hence, his model involves a radical rejection of change and becoming: the universe is an unchanging, multi-dimensional whole, given once for all. Change is merely variation along a static dimension.

Hawking's unbounded condition.

The problem with this argument in the recent work by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time in which he preports to prove that the universe had an "unbounded condition," in other words, there is no origin to time. Imagine that time is like a cone and as we move back toward the original point at which time began we move in toward the point of the cone. Hawkings view would say that the end of the come is smooth, or that it has no end. Actually, he says that as we move toward the ultimate moment of origin time fragments and become four seperate coordinates, just as there are four dimension coordinates, in three spacial and one temporal dimension. in this case the one temporal dimension becomes four, making it impossible to say that time has a begining. The practical upshot of all of this is that a universe in which there is no origin to time is essentially a universe that always was, or that has no real begining. In other ways this is expressed by saying that the universe "poped" into exitance with no prior cuase (the big "pop"?).

Stephen Barr:University of Delaware

"The sufficient answer to the no boundry boundry condition [Hawking rather than eleminating boundry conditions has actually impossed one, that there is no boundary] as an argument against God has been well expressed by the physicist Don Page, a friend and collaborator of Stephen Hawking, as it happens a born again Christian: 'God creates and sustains the entire universe rather than just the begining. Wheather or not the unvierse has a begining has no relevance to the question of its creation just as wheather an artist's line has a begining and end or forms a circle has no relevance to the quesiton of it's being drawn.'" This is the response by Stephen M. Barr, phyicist at the University of Delaware (in review of book by Kitty Fergesson, "Fire in the Equasions." Pulished in First Things 65 August/Sept. 1996, 54-57.)

In other words, the issue is not merely the "beginig" of the universe but the source of it. That it couldn't pop into existance out of nothing is a proof of God, that it couldn't exist on its own with no cause is a proof of God, that it may have always existed with no actual begining is beside the point because it still has to have a source of origin even if it has no starting point in time. In other words this talk of boundry condiditions and no begining in time is just a paradox of language created by the fact that time would start up with the universe. The universe still has to have a source or a sustaining source of its existance.[Ibid]

*Finitude still meaningful

Robert J. Russell.

found Center for Theology and the natural

"Though highly speculative, the Hawking/Hartle model of the "quantum creation of the universe" is an example of the kind of challenge presented by quantum cosmology to the relation between theology and cosmology. If there is not "t=0" in the Hawking/Hartle model, does this 'disprove' the theological claim that the universe is created? Actually the interaction method produces a more nuanced result than this. Recall that, according the Hawking, the universe has a finite past but no past singularity at "t=0;" the universe is temporally past finite but unbounded. If we had too narrowly reduced the theological meaning of creation to the occurrence of "t=0" in standard cosmology we might well have a problem here! (Certainly not the problem Carl Sagan tries to raise in his Preface to Hawking's book - namely that there is nothing left for God to do. Deism like this is not even remotely presupposed by those theologians who do take t=0 as direct evidence for God. For them, as for all contemporary theology in one way or another, God acts everywhere in the universe, and not just at its beginning.) Yet if we kept the two worlds separate, we would have nothing to learn either."

"But the interaction model provides a surprising new result: The move from the Big Bang to Hawking's model changes the empirical meaning of the philosophical category of finitude; it does not render it meaningless. With Hawking/Hartle the universe is still temporally finite (in the past) but it does not have an initial singularity. Hence the shift in models changes the form of consonance between theology and science from one of bounded temporal past finitude (found with the Big Bang model) to one of unbounded temporal past finitude (found in the Hawking proposal). Thus, as we theologize about creatio ex nihilo we should separate out the element of past temporal finitude from the additional issue of the boundedness of the past. What the Hawking proposal teaches us is that in principle one need not have a bounded finite past to have a finite past. This result stands whether or not Hawking's proposal lasts scientifically."[Robert J. Russell. founder Center for Theology and the natural sciences

* Interactoin Model: contingency.

A Theological answer by a physicist and a theologian based upon Hawking's model shows us that Hawking does not do away with the contingent nature of the Universe.

(center for Theology and Natural Science)

QUOTE: The Hawking-Hartle Proposal for the early universe is the most ingenious of the quantum-cosmological speculations which aim to overcome the problem of the singularity. It is important to emphasise that these fascinating ideas are still speculations, and that they may never be amenable to receiving any experimental support. The speculations as they stood at the end of the 1980s were reviewed by Willem B Drees. He points out that at this early stage in the development of these theories a physicist might be influenced as to which one to pursue by a sense of their theological connotations (as we saw with Fred Hoyle’s development of steady-state theory (see is the Big Bang a moment of creation?). Stephen Hawking posed the question:

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose that it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?

The militantly atheistic Oxford chemist P.W.Atkins has written that:

The only way of explaining the creation is to show that the creator had absolutely no job at all to do, and so might as well not have existed.

Atkins drew comfort from the notion that quantum cosmology has shifted away from the ‘blue-touch paper’ model, in which everything arose from a single inexplicable moment, towards various types of proposal in which space-time arises by chance out of a simpler state - Hawking’s boundariless space, or a quantum vacuum, or some such. These quotations show that such cosmologies can be taken to show consonance not so much with theistic creation as in Genesis as with the view that the universe arose by some transition which had no purpose or meaning. Keith Ward in his God, Chance and Necessityhas rightly taken issue with the suggestion that quantum cosmology implies that the reason for the universe is pure chance. He writes:

"On the quantum fluctuation hypothesis, the universe will only come into being if there exists an exactly balanced array of fundamental forces, an exactly specified probability of particular fluctuations occurring in this array, and existent space-time in which fluctuations can occur. This is a very complex and finely tuned ‘nothing’... So this universe looks highly contingent after all, and a creator God might well choose to create a partly probabilistic universe by choosing just such an origin for it."

Drees points out that in fact the Hawking-Hartle proposal accords well with a theology which emphasises that every space is equally created by God, ‘“sustaining” the world in all its “times.”’ R.J.Russell has shown, moreover, that at the core of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is the principle of ontological dependence - that all matter, all energy, and the laws that govern the universe all depend for their existence on a God whose existence is not dependent on anything. The discovery of an actual temporal beginning to this material universe would not prove this doctrine (since the doctrine rests on metaphysical convictions about God and existence) but only provide an additional gloss to it

Russell, Ph.D. Physics Santa Cruz,
prof Theology and Scinece
Founder and director CTNS

British philosopher and theologian -
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford

* Evidence of Temporal Begining.

Moreover, Barr goes on,
"The evidence that our universe has a temporal begining is now enourmously strong. In the 'classical discription of the big bang (one that leaves quantum effect of account) the universe has a first instant of time...t=0. As one goes back toward the first instant various physical quantities (such as temporature) grow without limit. A theis point t=0, if it existed, the quantities would have been infintie and one could no longer make sense of the equasions such singular points are looked upon with suspicion by physicists...t=0 looks unpleaslty like a moment of creation....There is a belief among physicists that by banishing this point they will have struck a blow against religion...the point of there being no boundaries is itself just a special kind of boundry condition among many other.." [Stephen M. Barr, phyicist at the University of Delaware (in review of book by Kitty Fergesson, "Fire in the Equasions." Pulished in First Things 65 August/Sept. 1996, 54-57]

The problem of no "zap" moment of creation ("zap" something from nothing) is not such a problem. An eternal existant can be contingent provided the necessity upon which it is pinned is also eternal. An example would be an eternal flute player. As long as the musician plays his flute the music is eternal. Thee floutist plays eternally the music lasts eternally, but if the player ever stops, the music stops. God is the source of time, time is a conventional frame of reference in the mental construct we call "reality" which is actually nothing more than a thought in the mind of God. This eliminates all problems of time in relation to God.

The convetional view that takes its ques from Genesis is facinated with the instant of creation, the "zap" of "God created..." But there are other passages in the Bible that imply a more organic relationship between God and creation:

Deu 32 :18 "Of the Rock that bore you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you." (that one may be hard to get, baring children--female image).

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb."

Job 38:29 "From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven."

In these passages creation is likened unto a woman giving birth. This is not so much a "zap" movment of creation exnihilio but of an evolutionary view. Birth is an evolutionary process. The egg changes, it splits, it becomes zygote and fetus and finally emerges form the womb as a "babby." I am not trying to suggest any form of pantheism, but the idea of "creation" being eternal yet continent, and evolving.

We must re calibrate the entire question of God and time.In this model even the consequences of no time do not effect God, since they are also just part of the mental construct. God's true realty is governed by God's imaginatin, not the laws of Physics. The laws of physics themselves are just conventional frames of reference in the fantasy of our "reality." Thus problems such as A and B time and the first moment and temporal begining are all avoided.The temporal beginning problem effects atheists too. They often argue "how could God create if here was no time? He could not think, he could not move, he could not act because there is no change or becoming in a timeless state." But they seldom realize that this also effects the universe of an atheist in the same way. If that assumption is true there should be nothing here. The atheists beg the question and just assume we got here without God because some theory says it could be true, but that theory does not account for the problem of temporal beginning. But if time is a thought in the mind of God the temporal beginning problem is not a problem for God. It is God's imagination and not physics that controls God's reality.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

more stupid myther tricks

I'm arguinmg wtih one of those know nothings and I say Jesus can be verified to have existed as a man in hisotry but not so Mithra or Zeus or any of the dying/rizing savior gods except Krishna and Buddha and even that evidence is weak. He says that's so stupid. They were all based upon real people.

Get into another argument I argue that the Gospels are good evidence for the existence of Jesus as a man in history. I am not trying to prove he's the son of God, but as a man in history, a flesh and blood man, not a fiction made up. So this gay says that's circualr reasoning because I'm using the bible to prove the bible.

I say well he doesn't know what circualr reasoning is because there is nothing circular about using a text as an artifact. It would be circular if I said "the Bbile says it's the word of god, so its' the word of God." Or "the Bible is the word of God, here let me quote this verse saying "this is the word of God." Of course if you know anything about my past you know that I do not argue for this. In any case he comes back and says "you are trying to use a supernatural books as a natural book so this is circular reasoning."

Aside from the fact he that can't show me why it's circular, he just got through saying that Mithra and all these supernatural mythological figures were real people. So he's using supernatrual figures as artifacts and naturalistic. So why can't I? but when he does it it's logic and reason when I do it it's circualr reasoning.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The "Almost" Berkeley view:God, Time and Imagination

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I have a theory that God is the basis of reality, the framework through which all that can be distinguished from God exists. In explicating that framework I think of it as a mind, and what we know as reality is a thought in that mind. In this essay I would like to briefly explore the results of holding this theory, viz God and time.

The problem of God and time is a thorny one in two respects. First, because the idea that God is outside of time is the most popular Christian view, probably influenced by C.S. Lewis. This causes problems in areas such as foreknowledge. How can we change our minds, and thus have free will, if God knows the result. Any mind changing would prove God wrong. Secondly, its a problem for our understanding of creation. This is in two respects. (a) with God outside of time there can be no change, no motion, no becoming. so how could God think to create, let alone act to create? (b) The problem of the creation as an event. With no time the Big bang is no longer an event with a beginning, middle and end, but an "event horizon" which has no beginning.

This view I'm discussing, which I call the "Berkeley influenced view," offers answers for all of these. Now I have answers for them anyway, but they don't seem to make an impression. So let's try this:

This is the conventional view: Imagine a great big room. In that room is a big beach ball and a guy (with a white beard who loves dearly for reasons unknown qua qua qua). God is the guy, the big room is outside of time and beach ball is space/time and on the surface of the ball is time. That doesn't solve the problem but it shows us with what we are dealing. In my view, however, the big room is God's mind. There is no guy and the beach ball, still space/time is a thought in that mind. The difference is the conventional view places God in some strange unknown space called "outside time" the relationship to God is unknown. Now in my "almost Berkeleian" idea there is also ambiguity. What is beyond this mind? In what other reality does this mind exist? I have to assume that there is no "beyond" event horizon where God is concerned. The mind is all there is.

The problems are solved in the following way:

(1) The problem of foreknowledge

there isn't any. The future has not happened yet, so God can't know it as a "done deal." That sounds heretical and I'm sure it will strike many as "something wrong,deeply wrong." Nowhere in scripture is God's relationship to time spelled. out. It may not be possible to be outside time and this has been pointed out by more than one physicist. But the idea of God sitting beyond it all looking at time spread before him as a tapistry seemed to solve so many problems and became so popular it was stamped with the approval of true doctrine. It is not true doctrine. Before relativity theory no one knew that idea. The Church fathers never thought of God being outside of time in the sense of transcending space/time. Augustine did actually think God was beyond time but that was because he had the concept of the Platonic forms to tell him that, but it still wasn't in that sense of "the laws of physics and the big bang."

This will bother people because they will say "we can't trust God to save us or protect us if he doesn't know the future, How can he know the end of the world?" I didn't say God doesn't know, I said he doesn't know the future as a done deal, as this tapestry of time laid out before him as he sits in his transcendent location beyond event horizon. God knows two things: (1) he can estimate via probabilities better than any super computer or anyone or anything else; (2) he knows what he can do. He knows that if is his purpose to bring about an end, he can bring it about even if the circumstances aren't precisely known. So we can't say "God doesn't know the future" but he may not know it as "done deal." Of course that also means in God's figuring he would naturally leave room for mind changing and thus, free will.

(2) Problem of Creation

In a timeless state, no change thus no creation. But God is not in a timeless state. Time could run eternally, but an even better answer is that time is just a conventionality in the mental construct of our reality. Moreover, the consequences of non time are as well. The reality in which God dwells is not governed by the laws of physics, those are part of the mental construct that holds this reality in the mind of God. God's true reality is controlled by imagination, God's imagination not physics.

(3) The problem of creation

This could get very complex and I don't want it to be so I will deal with this problem tomarrow night.

to be continued....

Friday, January 05, 2007

Article in Wall Street Journal

There's an article in today's Wall Street Journal by Sam Schulman
entitled Without God, Gall is Permitted,
( subtitled "Modern
atheists have no new arguments, and they lack their forebears'
charm." He writes:

* * *

For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which
sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first
to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems
was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as
if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of
creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth.
They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own
blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent,
reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it.
The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins's volume in a recent New York Review of
Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting
point for any considered debate over religion.

The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody.
It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great
artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton and
Spinoza--let alone Aquinas, Dr. Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal
Newman, Reinhold Niebuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to
pass over this deeper faith--the kind that engaged the great minds of
Western history--is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new
atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.

This is what I've been saying all along. Sam Harris sounds like a kid on a message baord.They all sound like they get their ideas from the Secular Web.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Brain Chemestry and Presence of God

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The New Atheist Fundamentalism draws upon the work concerning God part of the brain as one of its major weapons.This argument is actually fuitless as is actaully an argument for God not a disproof.

Brain Chemestry:Reductionism

The major atheist objection is that neurological research has accounted for the mechanics of religious experience, thus we know it is not God making the experiences happen it's is nothing more than brain chemistry.


Review of Newberg's book Why God wont Go Away

But in this brilliant, groundbreaking new book, researchers Andrew Newberg and Eugene d'Aquili offer an explanation that is at once profoundly simple and scientifically precise: the religious impulse is rooted in the biology of the brain.

Newberg and d'Aquili base this revolutionary conclusion on a long-term investigation of brain function and behavior as well as studies they conducted using high-tech imaging techniques to examine the brains of meditating Buddhists and Franciscan nuns at prayer. What they discovered was that intensely focused spiritual contemplation triggers an alteration in the activity of the brain that leads us to perceive transcendent religious experiences as solid and tangibly real. In other words, the sensation that Buddhists call "oneness with the universe" and the Franciscans attribute to the palpable presence of God is not a delusion or a manifestation of wishful thinking but rather a chain of neurological events that can be objectively observed, recorded, and actually photographed.

Wait, this is a very simplistic notion of the arugment. The argument never said 'O I feel something out of the ordinary, I can't think what would cause it, it must be God." That's the pedestrian understanding. At that rate accounting for the mechanics of the sensation hardly disproves anything. One is still left with many imponderables that offer ratinal warrent for belief if one choose them as such.

(1) The timing in relation to prayer or other religious events.

One can go a lifetime with no religious experiences. One prayer, or one meaningful gesture, one trip to a church during mass, or any such event and one can be reduced to tears, swept away into the transcendent relm, and have one's entire life changed. So the proximity to religious environment as the trigger means this is more than just relaxation or a trick of the mind.

(2) This is not the Only one kind of religious experience

The born again experience hasn't been subjected to the same kind of data gathering techniques, or if it has, I can't find the data. But there are many different kinds of religious experiences and many different aspects to mystical experince this is not the only one.

(3) Something real is happening, it's not an illusion

The only question is "what is it that is happening."

Aaron Holland sept 1, 2001

Review of Newberg's Why God Wont Go Away

First, the authors claim that their evidence from SPECT scans and EEG's show that religious experience is real. Religious experience is real in the sense that there is something actually occurring in the brain that is not dismissable as something delusional or hallucinatory. While some skeptics might dismiss spiritual experience in this manner, it is not clear that this is what skeptics have in mind when they do not concede that religious experiences are real. A skeptical reader might easily grant that something is taking place in the brain but dispute whether that experience is an experience of some metaphysical entity, i.e. God, or of some kind of metaphysical reality, i.e. that all of reality is unified. Someone claiming to have an intimate experience of God can be understood as making two claims: that a certain spiritual experience is taking place, and that such an experience is an experience of a metaphysical entity (God). The authors' empirical data only establishes the existence of the former reality, and not the latter.

(4) Describing physical mechanics of the sensation doesn't discredit the experience


Second, and more important, is the authors' claim that because of their findings it is just as irrational to doubt the reality of God as it is to doubt the reality of the material world: If you were to dismiss spiritual experience as "mere" neurological activities, you would also have to distrust all of your own brain's perceptions of the material world. On the other hand, if we do trust our perceptions of the physical world, we have no rational reason to declare that spiritual experience is a fiction that is "only" in the mind (147).

Now, if we dismissed religious experiences just because we regard them as mere neurological activities in the brain then likewise we ought to dismiss experiences of the material world. That point is trivial, for no skeptic dismisses religious experience for just that reason alone. As the authors seem to be unaware, academic philosophers have debated the existence of the material world for centuries (perhaps too much since Descartes) as well as the existence of God. The authors ignore the fact that philosophers will typically adduce good reasons for not disbelieving in the existence of the material world and for trusting our experiences of it while offering numerous reasons for doubting or disbelieving in the existence of God. In other words, although religious experience and experience of the material world are both neurological activities in the brain, there exist good reasons for thinking that our experience of the material world is genuine and many reasons for doubting or disbelieving that God exists. This is why it can be rational to trust our perceptions of the material world yet still have rational reasons for thinking that spiritual experience is a fiction "only" in the mind.

Just to extend upon Holland's argument, what he's missing is the fact that reasons for disbelieving in God come in all shapes and sizes, just because you have one doesn't mean it's related to nuerological matters or any sort of study data. Its' not enough to just point out the nureological basis of religious experience and then interject any old anti-religious argument and then argue that there are better reasons for doubting God than for doubting the material world. The argument still holds even if we take out material world put in any other belief system, just describing the mechanics of a sensation doesn't reduce the entire experience to nothing. Moreover, Holland shows his naivte because philosophers have lots of reasons for doubting the mateial world too,and no scientific argument can prove the relality of the material world.

(5) Neberg believes in spite of/or because of his data

If this discovery is such a compelling defeat for belief in God, why is it that the major researcher and the guy who porved the nature of the mechanics of the experience still believes in God?

from the man's own website:

Andrew Newberg MD, biogrophy

"The answer, proposes Dr. Andrew Newberg, may be found in the very nature of our minds, in the neurological architecture of our brains. Our brains may, in fact, be naturally calibrated to spirituality. While acknowledging that neuroscience cannot unravel the puzzle that perpetually entrances the human psyche—did God create our minds or did our minds create God?—Dr. Newberg does maintain that neuroscience can elucidate the nature of mystical experiences, their importance in human evolution, and why the abiding need for a concept of God is imperative for the survival of the human species."

from Why God Wont Go Away

"What makes these beliefs more than hollow dreams is the fact that the God that stands behind them has been verified, through a direct mystical encounter, as literal, absolute truth. Any challenge to the authenticity of that truth, therefore, is an attack not only upon ideas about God, but also upon the deeper, neurobiologically endorsed assurances that make God real. If God is not real, neither is our most powerful source of hope and redemption. There can be only one absolute truth; it is a matter of existential survival. All others are threats of the most fundamental kind, and they must be exposed as impostors."

(6) God creates corporeal life, this is just the way he did it.

Newberg believes that mystical experince is opening our minds to a higher realm, and that this is just a desecition of the way God gives corporeal beings a sense of his own presence. IT's not more a disproof of God's presence than arguing that we have lungs,therefore, God didn't create us. Maybe that's just the way God makes for corporeal life to understand himt, its our God finding mechinism. Just because we undersand how it works doesn't mean it's not real. the proof of that is in the results, the data about changes lives and transformations.

Religion and Ethics News Weekly, Feb. 25, 2005.

DR. NEWBERG: "If there is a God, it certainly makes sense that the brain is set up this way, because it would be silly for us to have some fundamental disconnect with the God that created the brain. "

(7) the transformative power of the experince and the religious overtones

The content of the experience itself grounds one in religious consciousness. Many atheists will claim to have had mystical experince and that they were not thinking religiously, but just because they weren't thinking about God or a religoius tradition doesn't mean they weren't thinking reilgiously. They were aware of their unitfied being with all being and life and of the undifferentiated unity of all things, and that is spiritual transcendence, and the experince creates a sense of awe in the face of the numinous and that is the essence of religious thinking. Moreover, since the transformative affects are real and the content of the experince is explicitely religoius, and it is not triggered by other kinds of thinking, there is every reason to attribute it to God.

(8) The experience is indicative of a higher purpose
Newberg's Website (Lectures)

By the end of the eighteenth century, when Higher Criticism and the scientific method began to captivate the human mind, the intellectual elite assumed that religion soon would vanish. However, two hundred years later, the concept of God and the primal stories of religion remain with us and, in many instances, appear to be gaining in strength. We humans remain in thrall to spiritual mythologies, to those symbolic commentaries that arise from the unchanging depths of our minds.

In his neurological research, Dr. Newberg considers this question: why would the forces of natural selection, which gave the human brain its inexpressible powers of logical observation and rational analysis—all shaped toward the serious, pragmatic goal of keeping us alive—allow that very same organ to place such fundamental hope and trust in strange, unlikely myths? In answer, Dr. Newberg contends that the very neural architecture of our brains allows us no other option. We are myth-makers in our blood, compelled to explain the world in terms of gods and monsters, compelled by the mind’s deepest will to survive.
In this lecture—based upon his book of the same title—Dr. Newberg discusses his research in brain function and neuroimaging, specifically his high-tech investigation of the brains of meditating Buddhists and Franciscan nuns at prayer. Illuminating the chain of neurological events that are triggered by intensely focused spiritual contemplation, Dr. Newberg places these objectively observed phenomenon side-by-side with our ineradicable drive to make myths, proposing that the religious impulse is coded into the biology of our brains. While neuroscience cannot confirm nor dispute the existence of God, it can help us understand why God will not go away so easily.

How could evolution lead to myth making creates as part of a brain structure? that would imply that evolution somehow has conscious understanding of what myth is and somehow protects the myth making process. The myth and it's reltion to archetypes indicates a higher rality at work.